Montavilla residents demanding more transparency over outdoor shelter construction

KPTV – March 15, 2023

Ore. (KPTV) – Plans are in place for a site in Southeast Portland where people experiencing homelessness but have a car can park, stay for the night, and get access to services.

Multnomah County announced Wednesday the site located at 333 SE 82nd Avenue in Montavilla at an old RV dealership, will be operated by local nonprofit Straightway Services.

It is being called a “safe park” alternative shelter because it will serve those living out of their cars. According to the county, the site will be available by reservation only, offer a safe place to stay for the night, bathrooms, showers, case management and help finding housing.

But for Kat Moss, who is a first-time homeowner next door and will be separated from the site by her just backyard fence, says she was blindsided.

“No communication from the people that purchased the property and had plans for it this whole time,” said Moss. “That’s my main frustration.”

Moss says she has concerns about noise from the dozens of cars that could soon be in the lot.

She also says she has had no direct communication with Multnomah County officials about plans to replace or improve her fencing that will separate her house from the site. Moss says above all else, she feels local officials are letting the people down they are trying to help.

“It’s noisy, it’s not safe, it’s a block from the needle exchange. How is this helping people transition?” said Moss. “It’s less about my backyard and more about, ‘this is the best we can offer people?’ We’re spending millions of dollars on this project and we can’t come up with something better than a parking lot on 82nd?”

In a press release, Multnomah County and the Joint Office for Homeless Services claim to have focused on community engagement around this site, but Moss and her neighbors say that has not been the case.

The site is expected to open sometime this year, but an exact date has not been given.

A town hall with city officials regarding this site and similar projects in the area has been organized by Montavilla residents and is scheduled for this Saturday, March 18 at 1 p.m. at the Columbia Christian School, and is open to the public. Organizers say Multnomah County officials have been asked to attend as well to hear from constituents, but have not confirmed attendance.